OSWEGO, NY – Defending speedway champion Dave Shullick Jr. drove to his thirteenth overall Oswego Speedway victory and second of the season in last night’s A&P Auto Parts ‘Spring Championship.’
Dan Connors Jr. and the A&P Auto Parts sponsored car of Jeff Abold lead the field to green with Abold jumping to the top spot right away using the high road off the exit of turn two.
Fourth starting Joe Gosek quickly followed suit moving the No. 00 into second with the other A&P car of the Dave Gruel No. 50 also on the move just behind Gosek, soon inching out into the third spot.
Rookie Tyler Thompson brought out the first yellow flag of the 50-lap main event with a simple spin in turn four and on the ensuing restart is when things got a little bit exciting.
Keith Shampine, the division’s points leader one race in, brushed wheels with Aric Iosue trying to make his way into the top five, catching air time in the Chris Osetek No. 55. Somehow Shampine kept the car off the fence, but was slowed when the incident caused mechanical issues on his race car.
Back out front, Shullick and teammate Otto Sitterly, who started ninth and seventh, had just cleared the Connors No. 01 for fourth and fifth by lap five with Michael Barnes driving the Syrell Racing No. 68 from tenth to sixth in just four laps as Iosue and third starting Lou LeVea Jr. fell to seventh and eighth.
Just as Abold came across the line to complete lap ten, Dave Danzer, who was debuting a beautiful new graphics scheme on his No. 52, unfortunately found the foam in turn three after spinning sideways heading into the corner. Shampine was also involved, spinning to avoid in the No. 55. Keith was able to continue, but Danzer was done for the night.
On the restart, Gruel was on the move immediately going to the outside of Gosek to take away the runner up spot before challenging his cousin Abold for the lead going into turn one. Abold was too strong as Gruel got a little out of shape trying to battle back on the high side.
Behind the top two, Shullick and Sitterly were continuing their march through the field, getting by Gosek as well to take over third and fourth.
Barnes was right behind the Nicotra Racing teammates, but ran into mechanical problems with the No. 68 and pulled pitside on lap 11.
Shortly after the restart, Abold began to pull away from Gruel, Shullick and Sitterly as it appeared as though the A&P Auto Parts car may very well win on A&P Auto Parts Night at Oswego Speedway.
Shaun Gosselin was also back in action with the independent front suspension in his renumbered No. 77, but struggled all evening long, spinning down the backstretch on lap 20 while running ninth and dropping out of the race after bringing out the yellow flag. The leaders were just catching lapped traffic as Gosselin’s rear end came around.
On the restart, Abold pulled away from Gruel again with the 50, 2, and 7 all locked in a very entertaining battle for spots two through four.
Four laps later, heartbreak struck the No. 05 team as Abold seemed to lose power off the exit of turn two, with Gruel inheriting the lead on lap 24 and the Abold Racing machine just barely making it down the short track and into the pits.
Just as the leaders had caught the back of the pack again, Bill Sharkey lost the handle on the No. 71 coming out of turn two to bring out the yellow flag and it was that caution that allowed Shullick to set up his pass for the lead.
Gruel drifted just a little bit high on the restart allowing Shullick to stick a nose in and complete the pass going into turn one to take the top spot with eighteen laps to go.
Sitterly was not immediately able to take over second, but did find his way under Gruel for the runner up position two laps later only to find himself about fifteen car lengths behind race leader Shullick.
Sharkey spun again after getting into the marbles on lap 34, drawing the field tight together on yet another occasion with Shullick, Sitterly, Gruel, Gosek and Iosue all riding in the top five.
Another restart had allowed Shampine to continue his recovery from the early race incident to make his way into the fifth spot as Gruel was forced to fend off Gosek for the final podium position with the Nicotra Racing teammates off to the races ahead of him.
Sitterly had closed ground a little bit on Shullick, but not by much as the front two were each running laps at 16.8 seconds with about ten laps to go.
Traffic was again a factor on lap 42 and things got a little interesting as Shullick struggled to get by a few lapped cars allowing Sitterly to nearly draw to the back bumper of the No. 2 coming off the west end of the speedway.
With only six circuits remaining, Sitterly was at one point within two car lengths of Shullick heading into turn one, but as soon as the blue deuce was able to clear the final lapped car, it was smooth sailing for the ‘Shoe 2.’
The white flag was finally in the air on lap 49 and the race seemingly over, but just as Shullick was working his way off of turn number four the yellow lights came on the speedway as Iosue spun going into turn one and collected a whole bunch of cars including Tyler Thompson and fellow rookies Nathan Schultzkie and Brent Murray who were all impressing in this particular main event.
Although Don Forbes had the checkered flag in hand, the yellow was out before Shullick and Sitterly crossed the line, calling for a green and then checkered finish with just one more restart coming up.
The track ended up being completely blocked in turn one, forcing officials to throw the immediate yellow flag as several of the cars inside the top five all had to take evasive action before the red flag was eventually put out to stop all of the cars on the frontstretch.
Thompson and Schultzkie were able to continue, but unfortunately Iosue had to go off on the hook along with Murray who ran very, very well in just his first-ever Supermodified main event.
One lap to go and one more restart gave Sitterly one more shot, but it was Shullick’s night as he went on to win the A&P Auto Parts ‘Spring Championship’ ahead of his teammate with Sitterly, Gruel, Gosek, and Connors completing the top five.
“The car was good tonight,” Shullick said. “Everyone was out front and running fast. The 50 was fast, the 05 was fast and I hate to see that happen for the Abold guys. They work hard. I hope we put on a good race for the fans. Having Otto behind me made me drive as hard as I possibly could.”
With a new crew chief on the car this year in longtime Supermodified mechanic Jim Paternoster, the combination appears to be “so far, so good” for Shullick and Nicotra Racing with two wins in three races.
“I gave it everything I had tonight,” Shullick added. “I really have to thank John Nicotra and Futuri Media for coming onboard to help us this year. I’d also like to thank Jimmy Paternoster for everything he’s done. He’s worked really hard over the winter.”
Sitterly was back on the podium, scoring his third top five in three races and showing he is continuing to knock on the door for his first feature win since September of 2015. The seven time speedway champion will also take the points leader after June 9 action.
“That’s two team cars up front so it’s all good,” said Sitterly, who was piloting the former Moriarty No. 51 this past weekend. “This is a new car for us and we are learning with it. Tonight we missed it just a little bit. I was a little too tight. I think if the roles were reversed and we were out front first things would have been a little different. Congrats to DJ, those guys were running great and we will keep plugging away.”
Last year’s Mr. Supermodified, Gruel was able to hold off Gosek for the final spot on the podium, but was a bit disappointed that neither of the two A&P Auto Parts cars were able to visit victory lane after both lead several laps in the main event.
“On A&P Night it would have been nice to bring home a victory for one of my big sponsors, so I’m a little disappointed,” Gruel said. “We started sixth, got up to the front, lead some laps. It was bad luck for my cousin Jeff too, it would have been nice for either of us to win tonight honestly, but we were really close. I could charge right to the front but didn’t have quite enough to stay there so we will make some changes in the shop and come back next week.”
The top five finish for Gosek was the 232nd of his career at Oswego, while Sitterly’s third place run allowed him to bypass Nolan Swift for seventh on that list with 130 total for his career.
Connors was able to get back up front after struggling early on, with rookie Thompson continuing to impress in the Jason Simmons owned No. 98T, driving to a sixth place finish just ahead of Shampine while Iosue, Lou Le Vea Jr, and Lou LeVea Sr. completed the top ten.
Hal LaTulip was eleventh while Schultzkie also had a fine run finishing twelfth in the Uni Fi No. 26 machine. Murray was credited with a thirteenth place finish in his first race of any kind at the speedway.
Gosselin, Sharkey, Abold, Barnes, and Danzer completed the field all with DNFs.
Connors, still in search of his first feature win, edged out Thompson for Lighthouse Lanes Up and Comer while Thompson was the D&S Landscaping Hard Charger for his drive from fourteenth to sixth.
Iosue, Gruel, and Sitterly won their respective heat races earlier in the evening.
Oswego Speedway gets right back to it June 16 when Burke’s Do It Best Homecenter and Bosco’s presents Novelis Supermodified Twin 35s plus Autograph Night and a Pathfinder Bank SBS 30-lap main event. General admission is only $20 with kids 16 and younger still free. Autographs will take place at 5:15 p.m. with heats going green at 6:45 p.m.
For more information on Oswego Speedway, visit OswegoSpeedway.com